Nueces County leaders met with representatives and residents of the City of Bishop last week to inform them of a proposed countywide drainage district, but the City of Robstown has yet to agree to such a meeting.
County Judge Loyd Neal was in Bishop Jan. 29 to meet with residents and officials of Nueces County Drainage District No. 3 on the topic of possibly dissolving two drainage districts, the other being Nueces County Drainage District No. 2, located in Robstown.
The goal is to find a way to provide funding for hundreds of millions of dollars in drainage improvements that are going to be recommended by the county's master drainage plan, which is scheduled to be completed within the next few months.
The county has already met with representatives from the City of Corpus Christi and Port Aransas trying to seek support for enabling legislation from the state this year to allow for the county's taxpayers to decide sometime in the future whether or not they want a countywide drainage district.
"We have about a two-month window open in this session of the legislature to try to get the legislature to pass a four-cornered document that says if we were to do something, how it might look," Neal said. "But at the end of the day, nothing happens unless the people vote, either up or down, or decide they want to do this because we need a vehicle to gather some type of financial assets to either match federal dollars with or try to establish something that will allow us to go borrow money…and we can't do that the way it's set up now."
Drainage District No. 2 in Robstown brings in about $1.2 million annually, county officials have said, while Drainage District No. 3 in Bishop takes in far less than that amount, usually less than $100,000 annually. Each drainage district has its own board, tax rate and budget, a structure that would apply to the new drainage district being proposed.
County officials have said a uniform tax rate could be 8 to 29 cents lower than what residents in each drainage district are currently paying per $100 valuation, with the drainage district possibly resembling those in Hidalgo or San Patricio counties.
Before any of that happens, though, Neal said the first step will be to seek the enabling legislation, which will outline what the new drainage district may look like, though a final proposal is still years away and would likely have public input.
Either way, Neal said it is the county's responsibility to ensure the public has choices that are viable to choose from.
"I can assure you the commissioners and I will never call an election if we're going to get our heads handed to us - we're just not going to do that," Neal said during the meeting. "But we have an obligation as…elected officials for the county to try and solve what is a major problem in this county."
Precinct 2 Commissioner Betty Jean Longoria said Monday that she is working to set up a meeting with commissioners from Drainage District No. 2 and the Robstown City Council, but added that she has not heard from either entity.
Neal said so far, the reception to the proposed drainage district has been somewhat mixed, with some residents happy for the possibility of a tax decrease, while some are worried the level of service they receive currently may change.
"I get the feeling that the people who are there, who are serviced by the current Bishop drainage district, are not anxious to make a change," Neal said. "You know, they feel like they're being served now and it's doing what they want to do…and they're concerned, as it should be, whether they're going to receive the same service.
"It's the same thing that I would ask if I were in that situation."